Figen was born in Istanbul and moved to Germany at the age of two in 1963. Twenty years later, she moved to the UK for a new adventure.
Now, a mother of five children and grandmother to five boys, she resides in a peaceful part of south Manchester with husband of 30 years and counting, Stuart.
For over 23 years, Figen worked as a counsellor, a life coach and offered clinical supervision to other counsellors too. She has always had a passion for listening to other people's troubles - helping them get back on track to lead happier, healthier lives is a role she finds both challenging and rewarding.
On the 22nd May 2017, Figen’s life as she knew it changed forever.
Her son, Martyn Hett, was one of the 22 people killed in the devastating Manchester Arena terrorist attack.
The shock, heartache and emptiness felt by Figen’s family was overwhelming. In the aftermath, friends, family and even strangers flocked to support her and her grieving family, and while there was nothing anyone could do to bring Martyn back, the acts of kindness strengthened their faith in humanity.
While many would assume Figen’s anger at what happened to Martyn, she was defiant in her message that hate fuels hate, and that being angry would only cause more heartache and pain.
Figen made it her mission to promote peace and positive change in Martyn's name.
Following the decision to no longer continue her work as a counsellor, Figen is now committed to promoting peace, kindness and tolerance in Martyn’s memory, whilst also working towards tangible changes that can help to ensure no other family has to go through what hers did.
Figen started knitting bears a couple of years before Martyn died. She originally started knitting to look after her own mental health when she developed hearing loss on one side - it helped to keep her mind occupied and prevent her slipping into depression. Martyn helped boost recognition of her bears in 2016 when tweets about the teddies went viral on social media. Her online Depop shop, "Imperfect Hearts", sells knitted bears with anxiety, OCD, schizophrenia and sometimes just mundane day-to-day issues that her customers can relate to. When we grow up, we often forget how to play, so Figen believes every adult should own a teddy bear to bring an element of playfulness back into our lives and help put issues into perspective. She has now sold hundreds of them, which have made their way across the world. Her book “Bears Have Issues Too” helps to shine a light on the mental health of adults through her professional knowledge as a counsellor and her more personal, lived experience. In 2017 she created Jordan Bear in Martyn’s memory and set up a Facebook page dedicated to his travels across the world.
Figen's work now
Figen is the force behind Martyn's Law, a legislation which will require venues with a capacity of 100+ to improve security against the threat of terrorism, train their staff with free online training provided by the government, and one that requires all venues have a counter-terrorism plan in place. This began in early 2019 in Figen’s kicthen as an online petition which received over 23,000 signatures. Since then, Figen has been working with a team of co-campaigners and meeting government officials and ministers regularly to formulate how her vision would be put into practice and implemented as law.
During this time, Figen also completed a Master’s Degree in counter-terrorism which helped her to gain a sound knowledge base on what exactly was needed out of this legislation in order for it to work best. She was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Salford University in 2022, and additionally made a Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Strategic Risk Management (ISRM).
In recognition for her efforts within the security industry, Figen was awarded the Outstanding Contribution Award at the 2020 Counter Terror Awards. She is also a member of the Senior Leadership team at TINYg.
Her biggest and most proud achievement so far is being awarded an OBE in the 2022 New Year's Honours List. Whilst none of the work she does is done with the intent of self-gain, receiving her OBE made Figen aware that the work she does is being both noticed and valued, which is humbling and gives her the motivation to continue.
By visiting schools, colleges and universities, Figen hopes that through educating young people around the dangers of radicalisation, she can help stop attacks like the Manchester Arena one from happening in the future. She has so far spoken to more than 22,000 young people across England, urging them to confront the issues around terrorism and radicalisation. Her talks also aim to show young people how they can positively influence and shape their own world, encouraging those in attendance to think about acts of kindness whilst at school and outside of it.
Whilst this isn't the "ideal" life that Figen had envisaged for herself, she still feels as though she is making a positive contribution to the world despite having gone through something so horrific.